In a recent article we looked at what company culture is and why it matters to a business. We also touched briefly on how to develop a good culture in the workplace. This sparked a few questions about practical ways of helping a good culture develop. In this article we explore the practical implementation of a culture strategy in more depth.
Company culture should be a practical exercise
Over the last few decades, a lot of academic effort has gone into understanding how the workplace functions as a community. The idea of cultures developing in the workplace dates back to the 1950s, but it was really only in the latter part of the 20th century that it was adopted fully and terms such as corporate, organisational, and company culture became commonplace. Sociologists, business analysts and academics worked to define what a company culture actually is and what it represents, and we now have a firm understanding of how it all works.
As businesses began to recognise that there is more to working life than the traditional Manager/Worker hierarchy, they also began to see the benefits of a happy, engaged workforce. The productivity and loyalty benefits generated by a great culture offers a clear line of sight to a better business overall. But how do you get there? While the academia is all well and good, what our clients want is practical solutions and approaches that can be implemented. In short, what is being studied in the universities and business schools will mean very little to, for example, a real-world environment of somewhere like an engineering company or logistics business, unless it can be applied.
How to generate a positive company culture
It’s probably best to start by recognising that instilling a company culture requires commitment, but it is important to control them because they will develop naturally if you allow them to. While this may not necessarily result in a bad outcome, it is much better not to allow them to generate spontaneously otherwise you could have a workforce that is not aligned with your own goals. In practical terms then, this gives us a convenient starting point. You first need to define your culture.
- What defines the culture of your business?
Your team needs to be supportive of your goals, company ideals, ethics and values. That means they need to be clearly defined. This starts with managers and owners sitting down and listing their goals for the business and what their values are that will underpin those goals.
- Make your goals and values crystal clear as expectations
When we talk about clarity of values it is really all about how they will be expressed. It is easy to talk about being the best widget manufacturer in the UK but what does that actually mean in the working day? What can the workforce aspire to that will make that a reality? Without representing words like ‘excellence’ or ‘innovation’ as practical outcomes they are much harder to instil. Realistic targets, clear practices and defined expectations give the team a framework in which to achieve.
- Spread the culture in practical ways
Your culture is developed in almost every part of the day to day running of your business. Dress codes, how the phone is answered, briefings and meetings that disseminate the overall goals of the business, employee development, reviews and career development, and of course, all your documentation and working practices will be reinforcing it. The list is almost endless. One pivotal point though is that your HR support is very likely to be the engine that will be spreading your culture. It is vital that they are fully involved so that the expectations of your culture are instilled from the very beginning of the employee journey.
- Culture should be top down
In the end, culture is reinforced most by the actions of managers and leaders. If the leadership team are not visibly buying in to the culture, then the people who report to them will either not buy in themselves, become apathetic towards the culture or, worst of all, lose faith and trust in the leadership team. When the leaders show they believe in and fully support the emerging positive workplace environment, they not only reinforce the practice of it, but they also instil it in new staff. No matter how much effort is put into creating the mechanisms and processes of a great culture, management has the key to success through leading by example.
- Reward and recognition are supporting pillars
Employees who really engage with your company goals and culture should be recognised as doing so. This can be through benefits, training, rewards for achieving goals, public recognition for great work or whatever suits your environment best. We all crave approval and want to be recognised for our success. Recognition of the value of an employee is likely to be part of your culture because it will create a positive attitude that will support all your other efforts.
- Diversity and Inclusion and matter
Company culture is all about the creation of a community that shared common goals. If you have an issue with inclusivity, then clearly there is going to be a problem getting this to happen. Recognising diversity amongst your team, and having a policy that encourages belonging, can only strengthen that community.
- Listening is vital
The very best cultures come from finding out what people want in the workplace. It is vital that teams are listened to and given the opportunity to talk about how they can input into your culture.
The importance of company culture cannot be denied. What is at stake is increased productivity and profitability, better retention of staff, improved company brand, easier recruitment, smoother onboarding and often a better work life balance for everyone. That is a pretty impressive list of benefits.
Without knowing the ins and outs of your particular business it is difficult to be precise about how to inspire a culture. We are here to help though so call us on 01604 261380 and let’s chat about creating a company culture that help you grow, develop and get the best out of your workforce.